The MDGs: Are we on track?

Vol. XLIV No. 4 2007

Building upon the lessons of four decades of United Nations efforts, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) outline a universal framework for development: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1), achieve universal primary education (Goal 2), promote gender equality and empower women (Goal 3), reduce child mortality (Goal 4), improve maternal health (Goal 5), combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (Goal 6), ensure environmental sustainability (Goal 7) and develop a global partnership for development (Goal 8). While these Goals are distinct, they are not to be understood as separate from one another -- progress in one area is only possible if the others are also tackled at the same time. Moreover, the MDGs, drawn from the Millennium Declaration adopted by all UN Member States in 2000, are not merely lofty statements of intent but a set of 18 concrete targets -- and precise monitoring mechanisms to track and review progress towards the achievement of these Goals.

The Arab region, for the most part, is characterized by dry, harsh climatic conditions and associated scarce water resources. The average annual rainfall is less than 250 mm in 70 per cent of the region and less than 100 mm in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Each year, 2.5 million people become infected with HIV, 8 million contract tuberculosis (TB), and between 300 million and 500 million fall ill from malaria. Together, these diseases kill more than 5 million people per year, the equivalent of a full 747 airplane crashing every 44 minutes1.

Africa accounts for about one tenth of the world's population and 20 per cent of global births; yet, nearly half of the mothers who die during pregnancy and childbirth are from this region. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that poor reproductive health accounts for up to 18 per cent of the global burden of disease, and 32 per cent of the total burden of disease for women of reproductive age.

In December 2006, the UN General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Sanitation. The intention was to raise awareness of the importance of sanitation and encourage Governments, partners and communities to embrace the need for urgent action to reduce the number of people living without this basic service.

Globalization is a powerful driver for development and the generation of wealth. But even as the world becomes more interconnected, hundreds of millions of women, men and children are still confined to extreme poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease.

The international community came together 20 years ago in Nairobi, Kenya, to launch the Safe Motherhood Initiative and highlight the most striking inequity in public health. This global initiative was developed to generate political will, identify effective interventions and mobilize resources that would rectify a horrifying injustice.

It has been eight years since world leaders made a commitment to eradicate extreme poverty through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These Goals are aimed at achieving universal primary education, empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and forging a new partnership for development.

Malaria is an extremely serious human rights issue. Six out of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved without tackling this disease. It is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Its impact is especially ferocious on the poorest: those least able to afford preventive measures and medical treatment.

The first disease to be the subject of debates in the United Nations, both in the Security Council and the General Assembly special sessions, AIDS is one of the top ten leading causes of death worldwide.

Despite the concerted efforts of many players, global progress in child survival has slowed compared to the advances of previous decades. Maternal mortality -- deaths of women in pregnancy and childbirth -- remains at almost the same level as 20 years ago.

The primary education system in India suffers from numerous shortcomings, not the least being a dire lack of the financial resources required to set up a nationwide network of schools. Traditionally, the sector has been characterized by poor infrastructure, underpaid teaching staff, disillusioned parents and an unmotivated student population.

Education improves health, while health improves learning potential. Education and health complement, enhance and support each other; together, they serve as the foundation for a better world. To be able to read, write and calculate has been acknowledged as a human right.

In 2006, for the first time in recent history, the total number of annual deaths among children under the age of five fell below 10 million, to 9.7 million. This represents a 60-per-cent drop in the rate of child mortality since 1960.

The Millennium Declaration, adopted by world leaders in 2000, set ambitious goals and targets to be achieved by 2015. At the end of 2007, just past the midpoint of this process, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) seem almost as elusive as they were in 20001.

The Government of the United Republic of Tanzania recognizes the central role of education in achieving the overall development goal of improving the quality of life for its citizens. It considers the provision of quality universal primary education for all the most reliable way of building a sustainable future for the country.

In 1960, Africa contributed to approximately 14 per cent of the global child mortality burden. Today, sub-Saharan Africa alone accounts for almost 50 per cent of child mortality, although it constitutes only 11 per cent of the world population. If Millennium Development Goal 4 -- reduce child mortality by two thirds -- is to be achieved, Africa has the challenge of accelerating the narrowing of this gap.

In 2000, the international community endorsed the Millennium Declaration, which sets out an historic commitment to eradicate extreme poverty and improve the health of the world's poorest people by 2015.

One of nine children growing up from a small town in an African country, Meaza was told: "Oh, you're so smart and have so much potential, it's too bad you're not a boy." But her mother, who was illiterate, believed her children deserved better. "When I think of my mother, I think about how women are prevented from reaching their potential", she says.

The world made a determined statement when it adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000. These goals represent a common vision for dramatically reducing poverty by 2015 and provide clear objectives for significant improvement in the quality of people's lives.

Every day in Africa, 2,400 babies are stillborn and another 3,100 newborns die within their first four weeks of life. Half of African women and their babies do not receive skilled care during childbirth and even fewer receive effective post-natal care.

A question that is sometimes posed is whether women in Muslim contexts are entitled to equal rights. Are their culture and religion opposed to women having equal rights? To answer this, let us recognize the fact that nearly all the countries with Muslim majorities are signatories to international agreements advancing women's rights.

For the first time in its long history, the people of South Asia have the chance of sharing in a thriving environment on fair terms. The countries of the region are enjoying unprecedented economic growth, in most cases exceeding 5 per cent a year for over a decade. Today, South Asia is the world's second fastest growing region, with economic growth contributing to an impressive reduction in poverty.

The 2000 UN Millennium Declaration, from which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emerged, focuses on development and poverty eradication, through peace and security, human rights, democracy and good governance. It identifies the fundamental values of freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility.

Seven years ago, the international community made a commitment to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty and hunger between 1990 and 2015. Now at the halfway point between its declaration and the target deadline to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it is obvious the world has made significant progress.

Seven years on and halfway towards 2015 -- the deadline set for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals -- success is still possible. The MDGs, which set quantitative benchmarks to halve extreme poverty in all its forms, are achievable if countries implement national development strategies and receive adequate support from the international community.

When the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Millennium Declaration in 2000, the goals and targets it set in the section on development ultimately became known as the Millennium Development Goals.

For the first time in its long history, the people of South Asia have the chance of sharing in a thriving environment on fair terms. The countries of the region are enjoying unprecedented economic growth, in most cases exceeding 5 per cent a year for over a decade. Today, South Asia is the world's second fastest growing region, with economic growth contributing to an impressive reduction in poverty.

Agricultural productivity improvements have been a major driving force of social and economic change in human societies for millennia. The traditional production of crops and livestock fulfilled household requirements for food, fiber, fuel, medicine and other essential consumables.

A bold and ambitious agenda was set forth in the Millennium Development Goals to raise the quality of life of all individuals and promote human development. The MDGs represent our collective aspirations for a better life and provide a minimum road map on how to get there.

When Heads of State and Government met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 8 September 2000, we reflected on many previous resolutions and declarations made at the international, continental, as well as regional levels.